The art of conversation is often difficult with people when it comes to discussing the needs and expectations of a child with learning differences, and in today’s society this becomes even harder due to the overwhelming social media presence and the need to present the best side of all of us to the adoring world. It seems that every parent wants the perfect child who has no issues and yet is there really such a thing as a perfect human?
The offense comes when the child appears to be all that is “normal” but struggles with the unseen learning challenge that sneaks upon the parent all of the sudden as the student is leaving for college or heading into high school. Then the blame game starts with parents blaming one another, the school, the teachers, the ex, or even CoVid.
This past week, I struggled with telling a friend of mine that her child had a learning difference that she needed to address. I do this all day long at my office but struggled to find the right words to let her know that it was time to step up and do something now. Why is this so uncomfortable to us as a society? I discovered that this is the unseen and unrecognized “shame” issue. Understand, there is nothing wrong with having a learning difference or learning struggle and yet we have a really hard time telling others that there is something that needs a helping hand. Is this the same as telling a friend that they have muck on their face or their panty line is showing? No, absolutely not. It is, however, similar to telling someone that they have an emotional/mental issue such as depression or anxiety or discussing that someone needs to intervene in their health like their weight. These are not popular conversations and these are very hard places. What should I say and how do I say it?
First, it has to be a person that allows you to speak into their life. You need to have that relationship already so that speaking into their life is allowed. Second, the best way is not to state it as a fact, but rather to ask leading questions so that they can see what you are trying to say is something that you have observed. Third, it is important that you not use a judgmental tone so that it is clear that you are speaking out of love and not out of malice or spite. Finally, you must offer options or solutions to help them find resources to get to the root of the issue you are concerned about most.
What are the leading questions you should ask? Have you noticed that your child (use their name) struggles a bit with schoolwork/homework/conversation/etc.? Have you recognized a difference in your child (name please) from their peers or siblings? Have the child’s teachers/coaches/or other adult influencers mentioned anything to you about your child’s behavior/learning/etc.? Have you had any frustrations in working with your child in homework/schoolwork/remembering directions/etc.? These are just a few of the possible questions you can ask to open the conversation.
Resources: Know what is available and be able to offer these or perhaps you can purchase a gift card to LearningRx where they can get an assessment of the learning skills and a complimentary consultation with a specialist.
Understand that knowing what to say and when to ask these questions is really important. Perfection is not possible for any human but learning easily is and that is the opportunity that you are offering. So, how did my conversation go with my friend? She was already feeling like there was a problem and had wondered why I had not said something! She felt like I as her friend and a specialist would notice if there was something that was going on and I should have said something. So, in short, she was very grateful and now I have the opportunity to bring massive change into that family’s life because make no mistake, this affects the whole family and the environment in the home.
The Misunderstood Child
A poem about children with hidden disabilities by Kathy Winters
I am the child that looks healthy and fine. I was born with ten fingers and toes.But something is different, somewhere in my mind, and what it is, nobody knows.
I am the child that struggles in school, though they say that i’m perfectly smart. They tell me i’m lazy — can learn if i try — but i don’t seem to know where to start.
I am the child that won’t wear the clothes which hurt me or bother my feet. I dread sudden noises, can’t handle most smells, and tastes — there are few foods i’ll eat.
I am the child that can’t catch the ball and runs with an awkward gait. I am the one chosen last on the team and i cringe as i stand there and wait.
I am the child with whom no one will play — the one that gets bullied and teased. I try to fit in and i want to be liked, but nothing i do seems to please.
I am the child that tantrums and freaks over things that seem petty and trite. You’ll never know how i panic inside, when i’m lost in my anger and fright.
I am the child that fidgets and squirms though i’m told to sit still and be good. Do you think that i choose to be out of control? Don’t you know that i would if i could?
I am the child with the broken heart though i act like i don’t really care. Perhaps there’s a reason god made me this way — some message he sent me to share.
For i am the child that needs to be loved and accepted and valued too.
I am the child that is misunderstood.
I am different – but look just like you.